A Complete Guide To Regenerative Medicine

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Every now and again, the news will mention “regenerative medicine.” This term may be confusing, as it’s often not explained in any detail. Most stories that are exciting enough for the news either come from a promising clinical trial or warn against dangers of unregulated treatments. While those stories may be fascinating and provide insight into some spheres of the regenerative medicine discussion, it does not represent the average experience that patients in the United States have available to them.

What is Regenerative Medicine?

Regenerative medicine is a very broad term that refers it any number of treatments that helps the body repair, replace, restore and regenerate damaged or diseased tissues.

Despite the understandably futuristic image associated with the terms “regenerative medicine” and “tissue engineering,” these types of medicine are neither brand new nor out of reach for the general public.

Organ transplant is an older, well-established form of regenerative medicine. The first kidney transplant was in 1954. Since organ transplants are about repairing the body by providing healthy, matching tissue, this is a very simple form of regenerative medicine. Similarly, operations like skin replacement and vascular grafts are types of tissue engineering.

Many of the techniques used in regenerative medicine utilize stem cells.

What Are Stem Cells?

All  organs – the brain, muscles, skin, etc. – are all made up of cells. Every day, these cells go through regeneration and degeneration process. Old cells die and new cells are created by stem cells. Adult stem cells are undifferentiated cells that have the ability to produce other, specialized cells. Specialized cells include things like red blood cells, which have a specific task to complete within your body. Stem cells only job is making more cells.

There are two main categories of stem cells. Embryonic stem cell are derived from the undifferentiated inner mass of cells in an embryo. Meanwhile, adult stem cells are found throughout the adult tissue and act as the body’s self-repair system, replenishing dying cells and repairing damaged tissues.

There are four major concentrations of Regenerative Medicine research.

1. Medical Devices and Artificial Organs

Over the years, researchers have developed many new ways to create missing body parts, both internal and external.  There are also medical devices to support these techniques, like those that can sustain a patient’s life while they are waiting for an organ donor.

2. Tissue Engineering

The goal of tissue engineering is to heal patients without the use of artificial organs or medical devices. Whenever a transplant is done on a patient, there is always a chance that the body will reject the unknown organ. This chance is eliminated with the practice of tissue organ, because the patient’s biomaterials are used to create the missing organ. For example, tissue engineering has successfully kept a patient from undergoing heart transplant by engineering a new valve from a patient’s own stem cells. Your body will not reject itself!

3. Cellular Therapy

Imagine you need a bone marrow transplant or suffers from a spinal cord injury. Cellular therapy heals injuries and combats diseases by replenishing them stem cells of one’s own.

4. Clinical Translation

Translational medicine puts successful therapies to the test. Researchers in this field translate successful findings into tools, procedures and policies that can help future patients.

What are the benefits?

Regenerative medicine focuses on restoring function to damaged areas. It uses your own blood, tissue and cells so it does not require extensive waits for donors.

Conditions Regenerative Medicine Can Treat

  • Arthritis
  • Spine Degeneration
  • Achilles Tendonitis
  • Inherited Genetic Diseases
  • Lateral Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow)
  • Medial Epicondylitis (Golfer’s Elbow)
  • Rotator Cuff Tears
  • Herniated Disks
  • Sickle-Cell Anemia

Diseases & Conditions Regenerative Medicine Hopes To Treat

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Lung Disease
  • Conditions of the nervous system
  • Facial Trauma

Regenerative medicine heals by regenerating, replacing and rejuvenating existing cells. Its focus is retaining or regaining a normal qualify of life.

What Guidelines Does The FDA Provide?

Since regenerative is a new, developing field, the FDA is currently hearing from experts to ensure that its rules and regulations reflect what is in the best interest of patients. There are currently four criteria that must be met to qualify regenerative medicine treatments as low risk.

  • Minimal manipulation of stem cells
  • Homologous use
  • Non-combination products
  • Lack of systemic effect
  • Use of stem cells within a short period

The Stem Cell Orthopedic Institute of Texas only uses adult stem cells from the patient’s own body to treat orthopedic problems.

What Are Stem Cell Injections?

Stem cell injections are a common type of regenerative medicine that involves taking stem cells from one location and then injecting them in a damaged area which needs additional help healing. In this minimally invasive procedure, stem cells are extracted from bone marrow and then injected back into the body. Stem cells are meant to help your body heal. Sometimes, your body’s natural healing process just needs a kick start!

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